Days Gone By - stories from the past

Have you ever seen this face in the courthouse window in Pickens County, Alabama?

THE FACE IN THE WINDOW

CARROLLTON, PICKENS COUNTY, ALABAMA

Carrollton is the county seat of Pickens County, in the central part of the county on the old stagecoach road from Columbus, Mississippi, to Montgomery. It is 1 mile from Lubbub Creek, 10 miles east of Tombigbee River, 30 miles southeast of Columbus, Mississippi, 40 miles north of Eutaw, Alabama.


Pickens county courthouse

The town was incorporated by the legislature, January 15, 1831, with limits extending 1 mile in every direction from the courthouse. Newspapers in the town included, The West Alabamian, a Democratic weekly, established in 1849, the Pickens County Herald, a Democratic semiweekly, established in 1904, were published there.

Help us save more lost & forgotten stories, plus earn FREE books and other rewards—-Click to learn how to Become a Patreon/Patron member

Carrollton is the county seat

In 1830, the United States Government gave the commissioners of Pickens County 80 acres of land on which to establish a county seat. Carrollton was built upon this land and named for Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Among the first settlers were the Van Hoose, Stansel, Stone, Clitherall, Lanier, Davis, Martin, Hill, and Johnston families. Samuel B. Moore, governor of the State in 1831, after the expiration of his term of service, came to Carrollton, and there he died. His remains lie in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery. The Confederate hero, Gen. John Herbert Kelly, killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, was born in Carrollton.face in window

The Pickens County courthouse in the center of Carrollton was erected in 1877. The first courthouse in Carrollton was burned on April 5, 1865 by troops of Union General John T. Croxton. A second courthouse was also destroyed by fire on November 16, 1876. Though arson was suspected, no arrest was made until January 1878 when Henry Wells, an African American with some criminal history, was arrested and locked in the garret of the new building.

FreeHearts: A Novel Of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) (Volume 3)

Wells was peering through the glass

According to legend, Wells was peering down from the north garett window with his face pressed against the glass as a mob gathered to hang him. A bolt of lightning struck the window pane and “etched” Wells’ anguished face into the window glass. A vague image resembling a face can still be seen in that lower right-hand pane of that window. He died less than two months later “of wounds received while attempting to escape.”

Here is the whole story told by a famous story teller, and author Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Pane has remained intact through all storms

“Through all the years, in spite of hail and storm, which destroyed all the windows in the courthouse, this one pane remained intact. It has been scrubbed with soap and rubbed with gasoline by those who doubt its permanence, but it has met every test and the face remains unchanged. At close range the pane looks clear and flawless, but viewed from the ground, the fear-distorted face of Henry Wells can be clearly seen!”

The 130th anniversary of the Face in the Window passed without fanfare in Carrollton. “I don’t think anybody took the time to realize that it’s been 130 years,” the town clerk told us. “We just know it’s there.” The clerk also said that the Courthouse was never threatened with demolition; Carrollton would never tear down it’s most famous building, even if it carries Henry Well’s curse. The Courthouse was just being restored to tip-top condition.

SOURCES

  1. Acts, 1830-31, pp. 48-50; Brewer, Alabama (1872), p. 500 et seq.;
  2. Smith, Pickens County; Armes, Story of coal and iron in Alabama (1910), pp. 34-55;
  3. Northern Alabama (1888), p. 213; Folk’s Alabama gazetteer, 1888-9, p. 252.
  4. Wikipedia, Carrollton, Alabama

As a family historian, do you have friends and family ask you how to get started in family research? This is a hard question to answer in a few minutes. Refer them to the book below to help them get started in this fun hobby. Purchase several – Books make great gifts!

WHERE DO I START? Hints and Tips for Beginning Genealogists with On-line resources

Click here for all historic books by Donna R. Causey

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!
Tags:

266 comments

  1. Responding to text on The Face In The Window of the Pickens County Courthouse: You sight a story by Kathryn Tucker Tucker. Do you mean Kathryn Tucker Windham?
    Joe McKnight

    1. I certainly did Joe. Thanks for catching that.

  2. Been to this place. The glass does look funny but I did not see a face.

    1. You have to be close and at the right angle. Its weird but its there

    2. I have seen this many times over the last 40+ years. We use to go and research family history in Pickens Co….this was always both spooky and incredibly interesting to me!!!! It has certainly held through the test of time!

  3. Linda Shoemaker Johnson this is what we were talking about at our get together.

  4. This is my favorite story of all the Alabama Ghost stories!! I’ve been there and seen the face!

  5. The face is real don’t know how or why but it’s still there

  6. Trish Robertson Johnson

    1. Thanks, Sam Harris!! Love it and yes I see the face!! I posted one on Heart of Dixie-Memories, Legends and Ghosts of our Southern Past last week that an Indian face in window! Very cool! “)

  7. I remember this story from decades ago and passing by this place going to the hunting camp. One of the coolest ghost stories

  8. I have seen that in person. It’s there!

  9. I have seen the face every time I have been there. From several different angles. It is there.

  10. I live there, and it is still here. You can’t see it very well in this pic.

  11. One of my favorite ghost stories

  12. No but I’m on my Iphone… and my bifocal contact lenses don’t work well!!

  13. I have been by it is their so true.

  14. Our dad would take us up there to see it. One of my favorite things. I saw the face

  15. Been there several times. Saw the face.

    1. Carl S. Martin, I think we are related by DNA. my Aunt Olivia Ball Sullivan owned the Phoenix Hotel across from that Carrollton County Courthouse and as a child my family stayed at the hotel on visits. I heard that story when I was 4-5 years old and saw the face in the window. Some of my Ball relatives are buried in the Old Garden Cemetery and other cemeteries in the area. My Mother’s Mother was a Windham, she married Buck Derryberry. I think they lived in Ewtah, Gainsville, in that area.

  16. to me, resembles Ernest Hemingway

  17. I’ve been there and seen the face.

  18. We drove down there just to see it and it is there

  19. Has been there 57 years that I can verify.

  20. I have seen it in person too

  21. My parents use to drive by when I was little I’ve seen it

  22. Need to come to Newton Alabama in Dale County. One of my favorite 13 AL Ghost Stories

  23. When I was hired to teach at Gordo, I interviewed at the courthouse. The principal walked me to my car and made a point to show me the face in the window. He told me the story behind the face itching on the glass and how it reappeared the time the broken window was replaced. It made the hair on the back of my neck raise.

  24. The lore was nicely told!!

  25. Have been to the play too.

  26. Seen it a million times since I grew up there. May or may not have known anyone that would’ve broken that pane back…WAY BACK

  27. Perhaps the lightening somehow lasered it into the pane

  28. I went there with Jack Daniels once. After a while we both saw it, but only in the light of a full moon.

  29. I love this story and I hope to see the “face” one day.

  30. Yes it is true I have seen it myself.

  31. I’ve seen it several times

  32. been several times and its always there…

  33. I lived there my entire school years. TINY town!! I’ve seen is a billion times. The face is always there, and the pane was shot out (Joey Adams) and it was replaced. He’s still there.

  34. If you look at it long enough your brain will tell you it sees something

  35. I don’t believe in ghost,there is a logical explanation for this

  36. I can barley make it out

  37. I have seen the face several times on my visits to Alabama. You definitely see a silhouette.

  38. I remember Daddy taking us by there after after a basketball game when we were in high school.

  39. Saw it about 6 months ago. It is INTERESTING.

  40. I have seen it. I think it is some kind of optical illusion.

    1. If you see it, it is not an illusion. ☺

    2. Actually you can see an optical illusion. If you ever look at the moon at night and it looks real big it is an optical illusion, because the moon never changes in size.

  41. I’ve seen it. It looks like a face to me.

  42. I’ve seen it. It looks like a face to me.

  43. I have been there and seen the face too before the the window was replaced

  44. I have been there and seen the face too before the the window was replaced

  45. Years ago, the face in the window was where we took all our out of town visitors.

  46. Years ago, the face in the window was where we took all our out of town visitors.

  47. This is so true. I saw it. It gave me chills. As god is my witness, this is for real.

  48. This is so true. I saw it. It gave me chills. As god is my witness, this is for real.

  49. Can anyone tell me the name of the guy?

    1. I think he had the same name as the founder of wells Fargo.

    2. His name was Henry swells!! Doug!!

    3. Wells!! Stupid spell check!!!

  50. i remember hanging out with friends in high school in Carrallton it was a kind of creepy out there at night face was definitely there

  51. Been there and I did see the face. Awesome

  52. I could never see it as a child. Haven’t been back to Carrollton since. I did see the face in one of the photos here tho. Most of the time when we went by, and they said look up, I’d cover my eyes!

    1. Linda I have roots in Kennedy Ala. I choose not to use FB messenger on my phone. I will message you when I’m on my outer.

  53. Been there and YES I did see the face!!

  54. Face is there, even when the window is replaced.

  55. They have changed that window pane a hundred times and the image keeps coming back

  56. I’ve seen it, it looks like a person put grease on their face and pushed their face against the glass, but it is there, I’d like to go up there and look at it up close.

  57. It’s in the book 13 Alabama Ghost and Jeffery.

  58. I’ve seen the face. Or an image of some sort.

  59. I think I can solve this mystery right off the bat. The courthouse was burned down during the war. A new courthouse was built right after the war.According to history, the townspeople had to scrounge for materials to rebuild this courthouse. They used old lumber and bricks because they did not have the money for new materials..Here is a bit of history most people dont know. During the civil war, there were so many glass photography negatives, most were literally thrown away. There were so many after the war, many people were building green houses with tossed out glass photo negatives. People were using them as window panes. They used them as gun targets. Much of the civil war imagery was lost due to photographers disposing of the glass negatives. I think this window in this courthouse could be a glass photagraphy negative of a face. Im thinking in their attempt to keep building costs cheap, they used these glass negatives as windows. Now many glass negatives are so faint, one may not even make out an image, In fact, if they used negatives for windows, they would pick faint ones. they may appear as dirty windows. Another clue is this quote.. “Through all the years, in spite of hail and storm, which destroyed all the windows in the courthouse, this one pane remained intact ” That means there could have been other negatives used but this one is the lone survivor. They claim they have tried to wash the face off, but you cant wash the image off a glass negative. Its just a thought

  60. Almost looks like a face from scary movie.

  61. LIVED IN GORDO AS A CHILD IN THE 50’S. HAVE SEEN THE FACE MANY TIMES , I THINK IT WAS A MAN HUNG FOR A CRIME HE DID’NT COMMIT

  62. My ex, who was from Pickens County, took me on a Pickens County tour early in our relationship and showed me the face.

  63. I could not see the face.I can in the photo.

  64. I’ve actually been there and you can see him. We lived in Pickens County one time.

  65. My aunt took me by this courthouse when I was a young girl & I saw the face

  66. The face is real and I loved the video of Katherine Windham Tucker. She is forever an Alabama treasure!

  67. I was there a few weeks ago. My pic didn’t show up so well, so I didn’t post it.

  68. Does anyone know why it is their.I have seen it when I lived in alabama

  69. Amber Linkenhoker is this the Pickens where u lived?

  70. No we lived in Pickens South Carolina !! I bet you still love to watch scary movies!!!!

  71. Of course i do there my fave

  72. I was there about two months ago. Oh yeah It’s there. Kinda creepy

  73. I’ve seen it. One of the stories from “The 13 Ghosts Of Alabama” which can actually be seen.

  74. Marie Burns Lutz Your Mom might like this one.

  75. Lived there I. The 60s. Was scary to ride bike by the window every day. Really spooky to see it in a storm!

  76. I saw it about 41 years ago.

  77. […] Pickens County courthouse 2010 by Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress […]

  78. You mean the cartoon looking face? Yeah I saw it, cool story.

  79. My aunt and uncle had a farm there. I saw the face when I went there.

  80. I don’t think you need the arrow.

  81. I’ve seen it dozens of times. Yes, dozens.

  82. I could listen to her tell stories all day!

  83. I saw it. Have also been to the play held in the courtroom.

  84. Have seen it in person.

  85. My grandmother grew up in Carrollton. Spent a lot of my time at my great grandmother’s home there. The first hospital I worked in is there. That face is very much in the window. And, no, you don’t really need the arrow to see it.

  86. Has anyone ever actually inspected the glass? If old leaded glass variations in the manufacturing would cause such an apparition. If newer glass, has it been etched or appliqued? Ghosts are not real. Spirits do not exist.

  87. Made a research trip and saw the face. Very easy to see in person.

  88. Grew up in Gordo….saw it several times when in Carrollton

  89. My Dad’s family was from Gordo so we visited this courthouse on several occasions. Yes, I saw the face!

  90. I use,to go camping quite a bit in Pickensville. There is a discoloration in the glass that I guess could be interpreted as a face

  91. Must be a bad photo…I can’t identify a face

  92. WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS Davy Kinard

  93. I have never seen a ha’nt

    1. But I used to drink a lot of likker and saw several pink elephants

  94. Yes it’s at our old county courthouse

  95. HEY!! YUP!! I saw it but I still don’t believe it.. H

  96. I have seen it. There was an old country song written about it.

  97. I have seen this many times on my travels from my home to Livingston, AL. I went to “LU” from 1982 to 1983.

  98. Yep. Turn right there to the best crappie lake in Alabama.

  99. I think the Wells incident happened before the window was installed. And he was shot on the run, not lynched by a mob.

  100. No, because it only exists in people’s imaginations.

  101. Used to work in the building sometimes.

  102. I can’t see something

  103. Yes, I have – it’s eerie.

  104. saw it in 1977, i think.

  105. Been there. Have seen that. And the play too. A sad part of our state history. Play is done in the courthouse.

  106. Yes…love Pickens County.

  107. Saw it over 50 years ago as a child

  108. Believe I remember reading about it back in school in the 13 Ghosts of Alabama book? I could be wrong.

  109. I used to travel through there periodically 15 to 30 years ago, and took several good photographs of the image with a 400mm lens on an SLR. Amazing. The ghostly image would shift on the glass. Definitely a haunting. I still have the developed photographs somewhere.

  110. Oh yes, many times for many years

  111. Yes, Aunt Verma took me as a child.

  112. Saw it, it’s there!!!

  113. Yes I,ve seen it , I was there a long time ago, I saw it, and its still there, , amazing

  114. Marguerite Seymer, Judy Gray Owen

  115. Yes! Many times. My hubby was from Pickens County. Pretty awesome to see and learn the tales.

  116. I have seen it several times

  117. Yes, I think they have replaced panes of glass and it’s still there.

  118. yes, i believe some things will hang around like this, he must have been innocent!

  119. I saw it. Looks like a face but no great detail. Mostly like a clown face.

  120. I went there last year and didn’t see a thing. I guess they need to replace the pane of glass again, as has been done several times.

    1. I don’t want to knock the town, evening if I didn’t see the ghost. I looked around in the building and it was very interesting. By the way, if you’re in that region also visit the musem in Aliceville that tells about their POW camp. It’s definitely worth a visit.

  121. I saw it 50 years ago. I also visited “Ma Cille’s Museum of Memorabilia” that same day. 🙂

  122. I saw it about 46 years ago.

  123. My grandfather took me and several cousins to see this MANY years ago. We thought it was pretty neat!

  124. Yep, and told that tale to 1000’s of middle age students as an Outreach Librarian.

  125. 48 years ago, it was as clear as day!

  126. This woman is a good story teller.

  127. l saw it about 60 years ago!!!

  128. Nicole Lynn see I told ya

  129. I am sure there is Ghost and Goblins in every town in Alabama

  130. Yep, bout oce a year, my grandfather, or an uncle or an aunt, would take all of us riding…from Greene County over to Pckens , Carrolton…, to see the face and to hear that story and get a 6 cents co cola.

  131. Our Daddy drove us by it on the way to the McCulley family reunion

  132. Our paranormal group at the time was the very first group that ever investigated it. Very interesting place !!!

  133. Yes I have, my mother and her parents were from Gordo, AL

  134. Daddy drove us by this every time we went to visit family in Gordo! When I had my own child, I took him, too!

  135. Yes. Couldn’t believe it but it was there

  136. Saw it two years ago. We stop by on our way to the beach.

  137. I have heard this story all my life and got a chance to see the window for myself a few years ago.

  138. Went there and if you wait long enough , you will see him!!!

  139. Lindsey Turner omg we so need to see this. #seniortrip

  140. Isn’t this in “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey”? It’s been a few decades since I’ve read that book, though.

  141. Yes I have been there and seen the face!

  142. I’ve actually seen it. My aunt and uncle had a farm nearby.

  143. I’ve seen it. Creeped me out.

  144. Yes I have been to see it

  145. there is a handprint on the old PA prison cell wall from a man who was hung in the prison. He proclaimed his innocence while touching the cell wall. He was condemned as part of the Molly McQuire gang. It has never been destroyed. Painting, removal, and replacement of the bricks, wall boarding over, the handprint reappears

  146. When I was 14 years old, I saw this face while visiting my best friend’s aunt who lived in the area. It really does show up when you look up from below.

  147. I remember going there when just a kid.

  148. i’ve seen this many times.

  149. Been there several times. Ancestors from Pickens County.

  150. I’ve seen it many times…I went to school in Aliceville…

  151. yes I have see it several times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.